En­vi­ron­ment work­ers’ body cam­era first


The Chronicle - - News - By MIKE KELLY Re­porter mike.kelly@ncj­me­dia.co.uk @MikeJKelly1962

IN a UK first, En­vi­ron­ment Agency en­force­ment of­fi­cers in the North East are now us­ing body-worn cam­eras.

The six-month pilot scheme comes af­ter one of its em­ploy­ees in this re­gion, Paul White­hill, was threat­ened with vi­o­lence when he and a col­league at­tended an il­le­gal waste site on a rou­tine visit.

Paul, an ex-po­lice­man, said: “I worked with body cam­eras in the po­lice and saw how ef­fec­tive they can be so sug­gested we run a trial.”

The trial is aimed at as­sess­ing if they can help re­duce in­ci­dents of anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, as­saults and threats against staff, par­tic­u­larly those work­ing with reg­u­lated and il­le­gal waste sites.

Rachael Caldwell from the EA’s waste and en­force­ment depart­ment, said the en­vi­ron­ment that staff work in had be­come in­creas­ingly hos­tile as “more crim­i­nals have come into the waste in­dus­try”.

Since 2001, the En­vi­ron­ment Agency has suc­cess­fully pros­e­cuted 59 cases of ob­struc­tion, hos­til­ity or threat­en­ing be­hav­iour to­wards staff, 22 of which were in the North East.

Rachael said: “The safety of our staff is para­mount. They are well trained in deal­ing with hos­tile sit­u­a­tions and we take any threat against them very se­ri­ously. But our pref­er­ence is to pre­vent hos­til­ity in the first place.”

Stud­ies show that peo­ple are less likely to con­test ev­i­dence when they know their of­fence is cap­tured on cam­era. This could help speed up jus­tice and re­duce le­gal costs.

If suc­cess­ful, body-worn cam­eras, which are now the norm among many en­force­ment agen­cies, could be rolled out to En­vi­ron­ment Agency teams across the coun­try. They could be used in a va­ri­ety of ways, in­clud­ing at visits to poorly per­form­ing sites, il­le­gal waste sites, dur­ing fish­eries and nav­i­ga­tion pa­trols and even dur­ing in­ci­dent re­sponse. Since the trial started in April, waste en­force­ment and fish­eries of­fi­cers have been wear­ing the de­vices dur­ing their rou­tine ac­tiv­i­ties and ac­ti­vate them if they en­counter a hos­tile sit­u­a­tion or site. Al­ready of­fi­cers have re­ported that wear­ing the cam­eras has pre­vented threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tions from es­ca­lat­ing. Those tak­ing part in the pilot must fol­low guide­lines on use of these cam­eras. They will not be per­ma­nently switched on and peo­ple will be in­formed if they are be­ing filmed. If they are used, the footage is au­to­mat­i­cally deleted af­ter a month un­less it is re­quired for ev­i­den­tial pur­poses. “Of­fi­cers will switch the cam­eras on only if and when they en­ter a hos­tile sit­u­a­tion,” Rachael said. “That could be a site where they have ex­pe­ri­enced ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour in the past, or an un­known quan­tity where hos­til­ity may be an­tic­i­pated, such as on a re­mote river­bank.” The trial is led by the En­vi­ron­ment Agency’s En­force­ment Tech­ni­cal Ser­vices divi­sion. Of­fi­cers are also eval­u­at­ing whether the cam­eras help speed up in­ves­ti­ga­tions, re­duce chal­lenges in court and re­duce com­plaints about of­fi­cers.

Of­fi­cers will switch the cam­eras on only if and when they en­ter a hos­tile sit­u­a­tion Rachael Caldwell

The En­vi­ron­ment Agency has started a body-worn cam­era pilot scheme

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